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'Major' NCAA violations relatively minor for Wis.-Superior

Wisconsin-Superior athletic director Steve Nelson knew the day would eventually come, but the wheels of academia often turn slowly.

The NCAA Committee on Infractions released a report Thursday concluding “major violations” occurred within the UWS athletic department from 2008 to 2013, but the only punishment will be two years of probation.

“We all have rules to live by, athletics, life, school, whatever it may be,” Nelson said. “It’s a major violation, but we were swift in dealing with it, which was a good 18 to 20 months ago. We caught the error on the scholarship application, made the corrections immediately and self-reported it. It was not the intent of any coach or player. It was very inadvertent.”

NCAA Division III schools, such as UWS, are not allowed to offer athletic scholarships. The report concluded UWS considered athletic criteria in awarding foundation scholarships over that five-year period. NCAA rules prohibit D-III schools from considering athletics when determining a student’s financial aid.

Nelson said it was as simple as a question on the application process asking about leadership skills and listing “sports” as one example.

“Just having the word there is a violation, because it could be misconstrued you’re making decisions based off that,” Nelson said. “The word ‘major’ might seem harsh to the average person, but those are the rules and we understand them.”

The report also concluded UWS committed a secondary violation when a foundation scholarship was set aside for a former men’s hockey player. The scholarship was never awarded, and once the violation was discovered, the scholarship was amended to take sports out of the equation.

Nelson said news of the violations coinciding with the Yellowjackets’ move to the Upper Midwest Athletic Conference is purely coincidental and that the school was upfront with the UMAC during its application process.

“We’re revisiting something that in our minds, we dealt with a long time ago,” Nelson said. “The main thing is this will not affect any athlete or team, and that we’ve taken steps so it doesn’t happen again.”